ABC-6 Reporter Mark Curtis: “The Sunday Political Brunch” January 19, 2014

by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

Rhode Island) – This week the
nation celebrates the Martin Luther King, Jr., national holiday. There are a
lot of interesting facts about the famed civil rights leader, and I have some
personal reflections as we get ready for Monday's holiday. Here we go:

“It's All in a Name!” – Many people don't know that King's
real first name was Michael, as was his father's. The senior Pastor King had
their names changed after visiting Germany, and being inspired by religious
reformer Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation.

“Church vs. State?” – For all the hue and cry nowadays about
keeping church affairs separate from government action, I just have to scratch
my head. King founded an organization with other black pastors, known as the
SCLC – the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The whole impetus of the
organization was to use the power of the pulpit, to change public policy.
Without the SCLC, and the deeply held Christian beliefs of King's followers in
the 1950s and 60s, the civil rights movement never would have succeeded. In
many ways it appealed to the Judeo-Christian beliefs shared by many white
American lawmakers and voters. It worked! Granted we don't want religion to
control U.S.
politics, but certainly there are times when it's a major influence. 

“Education, Education, Education!” – Ok, it's my riff on the
old real estate axiom about, “Location, location, location!” But Dr. King had a
profound influence on American education. He was a brilliant man, who only
spent two years in high school before going off to college. He earned a Ph.D.
from Boston University, thus becoming a beacon of
inspiration to other black students, toiling in a separate and unequal
education system. King was one of the first prominent black Americans to obtain
a college degree and beyond. To many of his fellow black Americans it inspired
a philosophy of, “If he can go to college, so can I.” It's probably his most
under appreciated contribution to society. 

“Dream On!” – One of my favorite bits of trivia about Rev.
King involves his famed, “I Have a Dream” speech. While he delivered the
rousing address in 1963, the original text of the speech did not surface until
1984. After the King speech on the National Mall in Washington, DC, a young man
at the front of the stage asked King as he was departing, if he could have the
papers on which the speech was written. King gave the man the original copy of
the speech and it must have made an impression. The young man that day was George
Raveling, who later became the first African American head basketball coach at
the University of Iowa, and also coached at Washington
State and the University of Southern
California. Raveling – now retired – still has
the speech in his possession. 

“Well Spoken” – As someone who teaches and coaches public speaking,
I have a real appreciation for those who excel at this talent. King was the
greatest public orator in my lifetime, hands down. I've lived during the time
of some excellent political speakers – John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill
Clinton and Barack Obama – but they are all second-tier talents when compared
to the speaking and motivational skills of King. He simply has no peer. 

“Gone with the Wind” – One of my other favorite bits of trivia
about Dr. King is that, as a child, he sang with the choir at his father's
church. When the fabled movie, “Gone With the Wind” opened in Atlanta, in 1939, King sang with his choir at
the premiere! 

“Holiday Origins” – The idea to honor King with a national
holiday was more a bipartisan effort than some want to believe. After his
assassination, the bill to create the holiday was introduced by two African
American Members of Congress, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator
Edward Brooke (R-MA). While it would take years to become law, it eventually
passed the House of Representatives 338 to 90. 

“Where Were You?” – Like the Kennedy assassinations and
other historic events in my life, I remember exactly where I was when King's
death was announced. As a kid, we were one of the only families I know that had
a television in the kitchen. It was often on at dinner time, because my parents
were news junkies, especially my mom. We often ate late because my dad worked
late, or we just ate without him. It was probably 7:30 p.m. in Milwaukee, when the network interrupted the
TV show we were watching during dinner, to announce King's murder. My mom made
all of us get up from the table, kneel down on the floor and pray for his
family and our country. I was almost nine years old. I remember it like it was

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© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC. 

Photo courtesy: ABC News